These words were uttered by the leader of the Lycians, Sarpedon during the Trojan Wars to encourage to the Trojan Prince Hector. What we percieve from these words is that the Lycians, under the command of Sarpedon, had come to aid Troy during the Trojan Wars of the 12th century B.C. This means there were Lycians in the 12th century B.C. Sarpedon meant that he came from faraway Lycia, from the ‘eddying Xanthos’. The Xanthos Stream is the ancient name of the Esen Stream, which separates the provincial borders of modern day Mugla and Antalya. As is known, this stream took its name from the ruins of the ruins of Xanthos, which once lined its banks in splendor. Lycia may be roughly defined as the country lying within the Teke Peninsula, from Dalaman Stream in the west to Konyaalti, just outside Antalya to the east. Fethiye, Ka§ and Finike are all located within this region which, in ancient times was called Lycia and its people were called Lycians
Where did these Lycians, who existed in the 12th century B.C., come from and since when had they been living in this land? Evidence uncovered in archaeological digs in the Karatas-Semahoyuk (Elmali) has proven that the area was settled in the 3rd millennium B.C. An axe found in Tlos belongs to the year 2000 B.C. This indicates to us that there were settlements in the region in the 2nd millennium.
Chronologically, much surer ground is afforded by Hittite cunieform texts, which refer a number of times to a nation of the Lukka, whose language was called Luvian and who can be no other than the Lycians. Because, we learn for certain from the Iliad that they lived in this region in the last quarter of the 2nd millenium, that they were called Lycians and that they were ruled by a king named Sarpedon. In addition, the Hittite King Tudhalia IV (1250-1220 B.C.) was known to have uttered, “1 made sacrifices and presented gifts opposite Patar Mountain, I erected stelai, and constructed sacred buildings,” which was a clear indication of Lycia’s existence at that time. Thus, we understand that the people who called themselves Trimilae and whom we refer to as the Lycians, were the oldest tribe of Anatolia who lived without interruption in the Mediterranean Sea region.
Anatolia was never uninhabited, for every new arriving tribe would melt in their own crucible, give it shape, create a civilization on it, whereas these civilizations would pass through other countries or else influence them. For this reason, the artifacts and ancient cities seen in Anatolia were works created by these peoples, that is, the people of Anatolia.
Again, we see that the Lycians made it as far as Egypt by sea in 1227 B.C. Thus, it is revealed just how much the Lycians had mastered the seas during these years. In addition, we know that the Lycians were allied with the Hittites in their fight against the Egyptians during the Kadesh War which took place in 1295 B.C. As a result of a series of consecutive and uninterrupted attacks from sea tribes, the Hittite State was destroyed in the 12th century B.C. and in its place, the Phrygian State was established in Central Anatolia, in the vicinity of modern day Eskisehir and Kutahya. It was once commonly believed that the Phrygians did not spread as far south as the Lycian region, but evidence refuting this belief was recently uncovered at the latest diggings near Elmali indicating that the Phrygians did spread out as far as the Lycian region.
Once the Phrygians were annihilated, the Lydian State was established in Western Anatolia. After they were defeated by the Persians in 546 B.C., the Persians reigned supreme over all of Anatolia. Lycia. which had never succumbed to Lydian rule, put up some major resistance against the Persians. who had arrived to take over their land.
Though the Xanthians put up a heroic fight, in which they were beaten by the superior Persian forces, and rather be captured as prisoners, the preferred to commit mass suicide;
“We had turned our homes into graves and graves our homes, Our homes, destroyed, our graves plundered We climbed the highest peaks and bu1Towed underground, We remained underwater, J1zey came andJound us, burned and destroyed us, We, who have prife1Ted mass suicide Jor the sake of our mothers, our women and our dead We If!/t behind a pyre qf people to this earth, a pyre that doesn’t burn out and won’t do so in theJuture. ”
Thus, Lycia submitted to General Harpagus’ superior Persian forces.
In 480 B.C., when the Persians assembled their huge force for the conquest of Greece, the Lycians contributed fifty ships to his fleet, which showed that they were a sea power to be reckoned with. Ancient historians state that the Persians never established complete sovereignty over the Lycians.
We know that Pisidians, Cilicians, Pamfilians and Lycians allied themselves with the dynasts to rebel against the Persians. The Lycians. who went into action without being dependent on any dynast, must have thought that perhaps they could eliminate the slack Persian rule. This rebellion was suppressed thanks to the Carian dynast Mausolus, who took advantage of this slack rule to extend his claims over the whole of Lycia. Lycia attempted an accord during the first half of the 4th century B.C., whereas the formation of this accord was ensured by the Limyran dynast Pericles.
Alexander the Great encountered a cordial welcome with practically no resistance from the Lycians upon his arrival on the scene in the winter of 333 B.C. It wasn’t a matter of being afraid of Alexander, but rather because the Lycians were angry at the Persians who forced them under Carian sovereignty. In appointing one of his commanders, Nearkhos to govern here, Alexander continued on his journey, whereas Lycia ceased to be free. Because we see that Lycia’s culture, which had not changed despite all the difficulties suffered up to then, had been transformed.
After the death of Alexander, Lycia passed under the rule of Antigonos, then in 310 B.C., by his general Ptolemy, who had established himself as king of Egypt. Later on, Lycia was ruled by Lysimakhos and finally was retaken by the Ptolemies in 296 B.C., who put an end to the Lycian language and replaced it with Greek whereas the cities also adopted Greek constitutions.
In 197 B.C., the country was taken from the Ptolemies by King Antiochus III, of Syria. Shortly afterwards, he was defeated by the Romans at the battle of Magnesia; whereas in the settlement which followed in 190 B.C., the Lycian region was given to the Rhodians, who had supported Rome. The Lycians, intolerant as ever of foreign domination, just couldn’t accept the fact that they were put under Rhodian rule. Rather than obey the Rhodians, the Lycians rebelled in 187 B.C. but were not successful in this attempt. Another uprising took place six years later, whereby the Lycians sent a delegation to Rome stating that they were being treated like slaves and that their honor and dignity were at stake in this matter. The Senate gave the Lycians a favorable reply, to the effect that they were supposed to be merely friends and allies of the Rhodians. Encouraged by this, the Lycians took up arms again, and hostilities continued for another six years, but by 171 B.C., the Lycians were again exhausted. In the manwhile, Rome’s relationship with Rhodes had cooled considerably, and consequently, the Senate decided to put an end to Rhodian control of Caria and Lycia and declared these countries free in 167 B.C.
23 cities joined the Lycian League which was established at this time. Of these, Tlos, Xanthos, Pmara, Patara, Myra and Olympos each had three votes. In addition, cities such as AntiphelIos, Aperlae, Arycanda, Candyba, Cyaenai, Limyra, PhelIos, Rhodiapolis, Sidyma, Telmessos, Araxa and Podalia were all members of this League and minted coins in their own names. This League had a Senate which held a congress every autunm to take care of the League’s business and decide on issues such as war, peace, army organiation and budgetary matters. A Lyciarch, who would be chosen at these meetings, held this post for a period of one year .
Thus, while the Lycians were carrying out their lives through this League, King Attalos III of Bergama died in 133 B.C., whereby Rome gained possession of all Asia Minor lands. In 88 B.C., the King of Pontus, Mithridates attacked southern Asia Minor. Together with the Romans, the Lycians resisted the Pontus King. The war ended in 84 B.C. with the king’s defeat by Sulla, and in the subsequent settlement the Romans showed how much they appreciated Lycian loyalty by confirming their freedom and expanding their lands to include the three northern cities of Bubon, Oenodanda and Ba1buro.
Cilician pirates had threatened the Mediterranean coastline in the Roman period. In 78 B.C. we see that the Lycian admiral Aechmon battled with the Romans against the pirate chief, Zenicetes, who was using Olympos as a base. After Zenicetes was beaten by the Romans, Lycia was spared of this trouble. However, both Olympos, which had offered the pirates sanctuary and Phaselis, which had played the accomplice, were expelled from the Chorikos League.
We see that the Lycians sided with Caesar in the Roman civil war between Caesar and Pompeius. Nevertheless, Caesar was assasinated in Rome, whereas Caesar’s murderers, Brutus and Cassius, passed over to Asia Minor to collect money and soldiers. The Lycians were reluctant to make any contributions to Brutus’ resources, which resulted in Romans attacking Xanthos, where the Lycian League’s soldiers were gathered. Though the Lycians battled the opposing forces fiercely, they could not gain the upper hand, and consequenctly, Xanthos fell. For the second time in their history, the Xanthians underwent mass suicide for their freedom in the year 42 B.C.
After Brutus entered the fallen city, a woman was seen hanging from a noose with her dead child slung from her neck, whereby Brutus was moved to tears. He proclaimed a reward for any of his soldiers who saved a Lycian from destruction. Onlyabout 150 Xanthians fell alive into Roman hands.
Later on, Roman armies took control of Lycia by beating Brows and went about repairing the destroyed city .Antoninius, who defeated Brows, took over Rome’s eastern territories and gave the Lycians their freedom. As a consequence, Lycia remained the only part of Asia Minor not to be incorporated within Rome’s sphere of power.
The Empire period, which began with Augustus, was one that witnessed the recovery and expansion of Lycia from every aspect. Some of the emperors passing through Lycia as ~ell as wealthy local citizens transformed these lands with numerous public works projects. Roman emperors Germanicus and Vespasian paid visits to Lycia in 17 B.C. and 69 A.D., respectively. In proclaiming the Xanthians as benefactors of the universe, Vespasian had a victory arch erected in his name. Finally, Emperor Trianus called on Lycia in 113 A.D. Thus, Lycia continued to prosper as a Roman province.
Lycia was devastated by a temblor that struck in 141 A.D., whereby both Rome and the rich local inhabitants attempted to compensate for the damage. However, another quake destroyed Lycia once more on August 5, 240 A.D. Subsequent to this earthquake, pirates sprouted up out of the woodwork, which caused the demise of some of the Lycian cities. At this time, the boundary was extended to the northwest to include Caunus. While the struggle between Christianity and Paganism continued, we see that Christianity gradually spread throughout the region, whereas Myra become the region’s metropolis. Lycian cities continued their existence into the Byzantine Age, however subsequent Arab raids, which started in the 8th century, were the reason for these cities to disappear one after another.